The Mind-Body Connection

Sex and Health: What Girls Should Know

The Secrets of Life-Long Good Health

Making Sense of Supplements

Health Tips From the Experts

Downstate Medical Services Listing

Posture Pointers



Health "Dos"

Control Your Weight

Keep an Eye on your Blood Pressure

Consume Adequate Calcium

Take Folic Acid if you are pregnant

Get a yearly Pap Smear

Get Prenatal Care throughout pregnancy

Over 50? - Get a Mammogram every year

Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy if you are peri- or post-menopausal

Health "Don'ts"

Don’t Smoke

Don’t Have Unprotected Sex

Don’t Drink During Pregnancy

Limit Alcohol at All Times

Don’t Be Duped by Fad Diets

Don’t Accept Abuse

Changing Dietary Habits

Cut out candy, cookies, cakes and chips loaded with sugar and fat.

Strictly limit highly-processed foods: pre-packaged main dishes, deserts and sweetened cereals (save these for rare special treats).

Steam, boil or bake foods—avoid frying. When you do fry, use a minimum of fat (olive and canola oil are best, because they are lower in cholesterol than corn oil or butter).

If you eat red meat (or any fatty meat), serve it less often, and offer only modest portions (three to five ounces) to minimize cholesterol consumption.

Dried beans and peas are a good alternative source of protein. (This includes tofu and other soy bean products.)

Serve vegetables in abundance, including such root vegetables as potatoes, beets and carrots, but avoid seasoning with excess salt and fat (also avoid sweeteners like marshmallows). Fresh vegetables are best; frozen are next best; canned vegetables are lowest in nutrition.

Wash fruits and vegetables before serving to remove bacteria and chemical pesticides.

Asked to name older women they would recommend as role models for life-long healthy living, two Downstate Family Practice physicians pause a moment to think. Eve Faber, MD, chooses her grandmother. Now 83, this vibrant woman still makes long walks near her home a regular part of most days. She has lived a life of moderation while maintaining a lively curiosity about everything. Daisy Arce, MD, describes a 95-year-old Brooklyn woman she has treated for hypertension for the past several years. "She has always been wonderfully conscientious about coping with her medical condition, taking her medicines, watching her cholesterol, exercising and eating the right foods," Dr. Arce says. "She has medical issues, yes. But even now, when her disease is starting to get the best of her, she has a strong, independent spirit and does as much as she can for herself."

What do these seniors have in common? A life-time of healthy eating, regular exercise, periodic health checkups, and a positive, life-embracing outlook on life. For those free of inherited health disorders, and lucky enough to escape accidents, this combination offers a good chance of living well into one’s 60s, 70s, or even 80s, without major health problems. Medical science today offers powerful tools for fighting disease and managing medical conditions we may have been born with, but much of our health still remains in our own hands, say Drs. Arce and Faber.

The Basics–Diet and Exercise
Good health begins with healthy eating: the right number of calories obtained from foods that offer a good balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals and "good" fats. Such a diet features an abundance of vegetables (including protein-rich dried beans), plus fruits, fish and meat (optional), nuts, dairy products and high-fiber whole grains, such as oats, barley, corn, whole wheat and brown rice. It limits "empty" calories from carbohydrate-rich foods (starch from breads and pasta; and high-cholesterol fats from pastries, fried food and meats). Eating this way provides nutrients that yield energy while keeping your mind clear, your bones and organs strong, and your digestive system moving.

The most obvious result of improper eating habits is weight gain. Why is this a health threat? In itself, carrying too much weight places extra strain on your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) and depletes energy, making it less likely that you will exercise. The cholesterol-rich type of diet that contributes to weight gain also harms by depositing fatty plaques along the interior linings of blood vessels, raising blood pressure. Being even somewhat overweight increases anyone’s risk of developing diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women.

The benefits of exercise in maintaining good health might be compared to revving up your car engine periodically to keep the battery charged and oil circulating to all the working parts. Without exercise, we don’t burn up all those sugar and fat calories we consume, our muscles atrophy, and we gain weight.

Food As Friend and Foe
It seems a cruel joke that humans are so attracted to fat and sugary foods that do us no good. Natural selection probably made us crave calories because they offered short-term energy and a long-term layer of fat to keep us warm and tide us over in lean times. But today, most of us eat regularly, and few do enough hard physical work to require a high-calorie diet.

Foods that threaten health include such highly processed snack foods as donuts, cakes, chips and crackers; fast foods including pizza, french fries, hot dogs and deep-fried chicken; and even many foods prepared at home, such as fatty meats, sausages, and any food fried in abundant quantities of oil. Fat, particularly LDL cholesterol (the "bad" type of fat) is especially damaging for all ages.

Children and Food
Children need good nutrition to fuel healthy growth, active play and learning. Good eating habits must be introduced early. Infants and toddlers enjoy vegetables and fruit if they get used to them before they learn to like less nutritious processed foods and juices with added sugar. Like adults, they should eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and they need vitamins, minerals and protein from milk and other dairy products. Vitamin D, calcium and iron are especially important.
Parents shouldn’t encourage bad habits by using sweets as rewards. When children resist eating what’s offered, provide good alternative foods instead of entering a battle of wills. If your child doesn’t like milk, for example, he or she can get needed calcium from broccoli or fortified fruit juices (not fruit drinks with extra sugar). And don’t give up on foods your child refuses now. Next week, next month, next year, your toddler may accept the food she rejects today. For slightly older children, offer rewards (other than sweets) for trying new foods. Another tactic is to include the children in shopping and cooking. This often encourages a more adventurous appetite.

Parents need to know what their children are eating and exert more control. (School-aged children and teens seem to live on soda, pizza, and french fries.) Young people, especially girls, need calcium to keep bones strong, and rapidly growing bodies require other nutrients absent from fast food. Weight gain is another reason for children and teens to shun sweets and fat. Over-weight can contribute to a poor self-image now, and serious health problems later.

Establishing an Exercise Program
It’s unnecessary to join a gym or buy special workout clothes or equipment. Gardening, climbing stairs and doing vigorous housework have been shown to improve cardiovascular health as much as workout in a gym, if they are done regularly. The main thing is to raise your heart rate for a measured period of time—easily accomplished through walking at a good pace, or any activity that produces a light sweat. For optimum cardiovascular health, such exercise should be practiced four times a week, but any amount will help. Women can squeeze exercise into an otherwise busy day by getting off the subway a stop or two before their destination; by taking stairs instead of the elevator; or by parking a few blocks away from shopping.

It’s also a good idea to learn how to monitor your own heart rate while exercising. "A normal resting heart rate is about 70 beats per minute; when exercising, you want to raise that to 130 beats per minute, and keep it there for 15 minutes or longer."

One needn’t achieve this goal the first time out, however. "Start slowly and work up," Dr. Arce advises. "It’s okay to stop and rest in the middle of your session, and then bring the heart rate back up again." If your exercise is walking, wear comfortable shoes. If you are nervous about walking alone in your neighborhood, talk a friend into joining you on a regular basis.

An alternative to walking is doing aerobic exercises at home, with the help of an audio or videotape. Many choices are available from libraries. Remember, however, that your goal should be exertion, not speed. Dr. Faber advises against setting your sights too high in the beginning. "Try to exercise every day, but if you miss now and then, it’s okay."

While aerobic exercise is best for weight control and cardiovascular health, weight-bearing exercise (lifting, climbing stairs) helps maintain muscle tone, strength, and strong bones. Weight bearing exercise protects against osteoporosis by helping the body convert dietary calcium into bone.

Never Too Late
Between them, a healthy diet and regular exercise help maintain good circulation and muscle tone, a healthy heart and lungs, and a nutrient-rich environment in which the body’s blood, muscles, nerves, organs and immune system can thrive—repairing injury, sustaining body processes, fighting disease, and creating a sense of energy and well-being. Good diet and regular exercise can even help compensate for weaknesses a person may have been born with, such as a tendency to develop diabetes.

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